Igniting growth with agile solutions
Today’s connectivity providers stand at a fork in the road, with a genuine opportunity to reignite growth if they can select the right path. By setting a clear strategy to fulfill the roles of InfraCo, NetCo and/or ServCo and adopting platform business models to deliver solutions to their customers and partners they will shape the industry’s growth in the coming decades.
Communications service providers (CSPs), systems integrators, hyperscalers and software suppliers must work together to create a multi-marketplace world where all players can thrive by partnering to provide new services in a flexible and efficient manner.
Telecoms companies are looking to monetize their network investments in 5G, network slicing, IoT, cloud computing, MEC, Autonomous Networks and other new technologies. These can be essential pieces of end-to-end solutions enabling manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, energy and other vertical industries to digitally transform, but there are five key challenges to delivering on this potential:
The last four challenges (subjects for future blogs in this series) create the platform for solving the first and ultimate challenge: the ability to compose solutions across borders, delayering North-South integration (NetCo-to-ServCo-to-marketplace-to-solution provider) and defragmenting East-West federation (NetCo-to-NetCo and ServCo-to-ServCo).
In our series of five blogs we’ll explore how the industry can build agile solutions that empower ecosystem partners to respond quickly to market changes.
Building from the bottom up, the essential starting point for all players is to ensure their internal systems and processes are constructed on a composable architecture. This is the focus of TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture (ODA), providing the key to plug-and-play software integration. ODA is now widely adopted by the industry, and DTW23 - Ignite this September will see announcements of more CSPs ‘Running on ODA’, hyperscale cloud providers supporting the ODA Canvas, and software vendors demonstrating early-stage conformance to ODA Components. A network monetization toolkit built with ODA will also be published in time for DTW.
The next step is to expose standardized partner-facing APIs North-South and East-West. DTW23 sees the launch of the next generation of TM Forum’s widely adopted Open APIs, branded “Gen5”. With a strong focus on ease of use and developer experience, the new APIs support cloud native architectures with partner-facing extensibility. TM Forum’s Open APIs underpin the GSMA / Linux Foundation CAMARA initiative, exposing standardized, easy-to-use network APIs to third-party developers, requiring no knowledge of underlying network technologies. This is illustrated in a detailed reference implementation by the Catalyst 5G Enablement through industry-standardized APIs which will be showcased at DTW23.
Building on ODA and Open APIs, TM Forum members are also working together on operations readiness via AI-based automation. Order management, service orchestration, service assurance / SLA management and settlements will all need to be fully automated if ecosystem partners want to generate new revenues profitably, especially given the complexity and sophistication of the new network technologies. TM Forum members are leading the industry with standardization of AI Operations, and have developed a toolkit of practical assets to support intent-based closed loop automation using AI/ML. DTW23 will showcase many examples of these assets being used to drive autonomous networks, connectivity-as-a-service, digital twins, and customer experience optimization.
Building and deploying end-to-end solutions for vertical markets requires ecosystem partnerships between network operators, hyperscalers and other platform aggregators, systems integrators and software suppliers. TM Forum members are again taking the lead here, demonstrating how the various players can achieve multi-marketplace readiness with best practices for zero-touch partnering. They have published standards for Network-as-a-Service and Connectivity-as-a-Service, which will be key to providing NetCo and ServCo capabilities to support platform business models, as well as a detailed concept-to-design framework to accelerate the innovation stages for new telco business opportunities beyond connectivity.
Ultimately, unlocking agile solutions relies on bringing all the above capabilities together to solve business problems. Each party needs the ability to compose their own service offerings, to expose these to partners via Open APIs, and to automate operations, but there is more to it than this. Composing end-to-end services for global customers requires coordinated orchestration across North-South and East-West borders, which in turn mandates the kind of industry collaboration found within TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture project.
TM Forum’s member communities provide the perfect environment for this industry collaboration to take place. Whether agreeing on common standards in our formal collaboration projects, building proofs-of-concept in our Catalysts, or developing reference code and tools in the Open Digital Lab, TM Forum members have together created a comprehensive set of practical assets, guidance and a platform for collaborative working – the keys to unlocking growth for our industry.
In our upcoming blogs we will explore in more detail the other 4 challenges outlined above. The next blog will discuss marketplace readiness and how zero-touch partnering is key to delivering end-to-end services.